If you make it up to the intimate Studio Theater at Water Tower Theatre to catch Audacity Theatre Lab's production of Raspberry Fizz, you will be in for a real theatrical treat.
Running at just 45 minutes, the show—written by Audacity's Brad McEntire and directed by Andy Baldwin for the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival—is an endearing portrayal of two adolescents dealing with the awkward tension of young love. Ellson (Jeff Swearingen) has been stopping by the same steps to chat with Samantha (Natalie Young) for the past few days. She seems rather indifferent as she sits reading a newspaper and chewing gum. When Ellson first enters, he is drinking some raspberry fizz. And Samantha wants some, too.
Frustrated but wanting to win her affections, Ellson leaves to go buy her a bottle. When he returns, Samantha now wants some more gum, too. Meanwhile, Ellson repeatedly tries to muster the courage to ask her out to the fall harvest dance. Throughout the show, there is a strange man (Shane Beeson) on the other side of the stage who shouts random outbursts that sound like a carnival barker with his shouts of "step right up, folks!" There is something sinister about him though. He tells Ellson that for a nickel he can look inside a cardboard box and see a glimpse of the future.
The strength of the production lies in the simplicity of both the story and the set. Swearingen and Young are perfect together. He moves and sounds like a young boy. With his shorts pulled up high and donning a small cap, he has the awkward fidgety mannerisms and nervous stuttering of a boy speaking to the girl he has a crush on. And Young strikes the right balance of the girl who acts abrasive and bossy on the surface but actually likes the boy.
There are hilarious moments between them, too. At one point, Ellson very gingerly tries to sit next to Samantha on the step and then just as quickly stands back up when realizing what he is doing. When Samantha tells him to guess what she wants to be when she grows up, Ellson's first guess is a scientist. There is something funny but also tender and sweet in his response.
The show finds a beautiful balance between humor and the earnestness of a young crush. It's a fizzy delight.
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